Energy underpins our lives and economic development. Fossil fuel combustion is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions and so energy use is integral to climate change mitigation.
Energy is also increasingly central to climate change adaptation challenges through its inter-linkages with water use, agriculture and land use, and urban infrastructure. There is broad consensus on the need for dramatic transformation of the energy system in the coming decades to achieve climate stabilisation and adaptation goals. Globally, the energy system faces additional challenges including: how to ensure security and resilience; how to provide universal access to clean, flexible and convenient fuels; and how to reduce pollution and its adverse health and natural consequences.
Energy Theme Research
Framed by these needs for a sustainable energy transformation, Tyndall researchers in the Energy Theme consider a multitude of issues and perspectives: from technologies and economies to behaviours and societies; from micro-scale to systemic; from retrospective to prospective; from mitigation to adaptation. The Energy Theme brings together natural and physical scientists, social scientists, engineers and economists to conduct interdisciplinary and policy relevant research. There can be up to 35 researchers associated with the Energy Theme at any one time, depending upon the projects in our portfolio. These can range from high level emissions budget analysis across different geographic and temporal scales to detailed case studies of particular low carbon technologies and behaviours in specific contexts. Our research is funded through a diverse range of sources, and we contribute regularly to parliamentary processes, government consultations, and the media, as well as the academic literature.
Tyndall’s Energy Theme research can be broadly characterised under various topics: assessment, behaviour, perceptions, scenarios and pathways, transitions, and governance.
Energy assessments help understand the technical, environmental and economic dimensions of the development and deployment of energy technologies and infrastructure. These range from renewable energy technologies to low carbon building developments to whole sectors such as shipping or aviation.
Energy behaviours research explores the motivations for, influences on, and outcomes of energy-related behaviour, from energy efficient home renovation to active opposition against local wind farms. A particular emphasis is on the embedding of behaviour in a social context, and the importance of the social organisation of individuals in households, communities or firms.
Energy perceptions tracks the evolving public understandings and perceptions of energy issues and technologies, linked to the changing framing and communication of climate change and energy security.
Energy scenarios and pathways characterise the social and technical changes needed to achieve dramatic emission reductions towards climate stabilisation goals. These include research on emission trajectories, the implications of international climate commitments, and long-term socio-economic scenarios. Also of interest are historical energy trajectories as a basis for informing future developments.
Energy transitions draw on, and contribute to, a growing body of theory on socio-technical transitions, investigating the importance of innovation niches, grassroots or community initiatives, and potential drivers of ‘regime’ changes towards a sustainable energy future.
Energy governance is a broad heading encompassing work on stakeholder engagement in the deliberative appraisal of technology options, climate policy appraisal, and analysis of the role of regulatory, market and other institutions within the energy system.
Examples of Projects Underway
Below are a list of the Energy Theme's recent and ongoing projects, organised under the topics described above, although many projects are cross-cutting. As examples of research currently underway:
• Tyndall researchers at Sussex are collaborating with the Laboratory for Low Carbon Energy at Tsinghua University in China on low carbon technology transfer. Funded by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change, four case studies are in progress: energy efficiency in the cement industry, cleaner coal-fired power generation, electric vehicles, and offshore wind power. Initial findings have informed international policy negotiations under the UNFCCC.
• Tyndall researchers at UEA drafted a background paper on energy transitions for the UN’s forthcoming World Economic and Social Survey. This forms part of a broader engagement process with the writing team for the UN report.
• Researchers at Tyndall Manchester and the Sustainable Consumption Institute are working on the EPSRC-funded High Seas project to investigate step-change mitigation opportunities for shipping. The project is considering both novel low carbon technologies and new operational practices, and will develop emission reduction scenarios for UK shipping. Stakeholder engagement is central to the project; two workshops have already been held with representatives from industry, NGOs, government and academia.